Bringing clay to life

Published 10:47 pm Thursday, October 20, 2011

From left, Sienna Roberson, Cole Byrd and Emery Campanella, all sophomores at King's Fork High School, adjust the clay characters they molded during a clay animation workshop at the school Thursday. Art students from the city's three public schools and Nansemond-Suffolk Academy participated in the workshop.

King’s Fork High School’s art room was bustling with young artists learning how to transform a lump of clay into a short film on Thursday.

Students from the city’s three public high schools and Nansemond-Suffolk Academy spent their school day molding, animating and filming their own clay animation short films in an art workshop.

“The students really loved it,” said Sarah Whitlock, the King’s Fork art teacher. “They seemed to enjoy it.”

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The workshop was hosted by Andrew Morgan, a Washington, D.C.-based filmmaker, and Abigail McKenzie, an art teacher at Flint Hill School in Oakton.

It was the first of four workshops hosted this year by the Suffolk Art League for city students.

The students learned how to move from creating characters to adding sound to the finished film.

From 8 a.m. to 2 p.m., students were busy making their film, “Remember When,” about two sisters who throw a Halloween party that turns into a wild celebration.

It was a party that would be attended by a wide variety of clay characters, ranging from clay octopus-blowfish hybrids to court jesters, all from the students’ imaginations.

Cole Byrd, a sophomore at King’s Fork, said the character-building process was the best part.

“I loved sculpting the characters,” she said.

Byrd designed and created one of the twins who throw the party in the short film.

After bringing the characters to life, the students built a set and then formed a storyline.

“The story started to unfold as they were animating,” she said.

Sophomore Cole Byrd said the plot came together as students examined one another’s characters.

“We looked at the characters and how they meshed together and created the plot,” she said.

Then came the tricky part — animating the scenes.

For about two and half hours, the students set up their characters, posed them, took a picture, then moved the characters a tiny bit, took another picture and repeated the process until all the scenes were finished.

DeShawn Goodman, a senior at King’s Fork, said the animation process was his favorite part of the workshop, even though it was the most time-consuming.

“It was worth it,” he said.

All the pictures were run in sequence to make the film, and then, the students added their voices to the film.

At the end of the day, the students got the chance to watch the finished product.

Goodman said he had a great time at the workshop.

“It was something I’ve never experienced,” he said. “It was fun.”

He added he was surprised at how simple the clay animation process is.

“It is something anyone can do,” he said.

Goodman’s classmate, Tyler Hearns, said he liked exploring a different kind of art.

“I always like expressing my creativity, and this is a good way to do that,” he said.